New moms have plenty of things to worry about, and concerns about breastfeeding are often among the top stressors in those early days. With moms wanting only the best for their babies and technology always advancing, some parents are wondering if having their breast milk tested can help guarantee their baby is getting exactly what he or she needs. But is this really necessary?
Breast milk is, by design, your baby’s perfect food. What’s found in it is amazing: from the right blend of proteins, fats, and sugars to antibodies that help fight infection, and even hormones that help your baby sleep better at night, there is no better nutrition for your little one. Your body even knows how to change what is found in your milk as your baby grows and his or her nutritional needs change.
Why, then, are moms worried that their milk isn’t going to meet the needs of their babies, when we’ve evolved to do just this? While many nursing moms worry about having low milk supply, this trend is actually about something different.
Newer technology allows a woman’s milk to be analyzed to determine a few things. One example is something that’s been done in NICUs for a while now, and this is when a sample of milk is tested to determine the amount of fat and calories found in one ounce of a mother’s milk. Called the creamatocrit, or the percentage of cream, this number can help guarantee that the most preterm and sick infants are truly getting the right blend of fats and calories that they need.
However, knowing this number is really not important in the normal term baby who has no medical issues, and worrying about your breast milk’s calorie content is actually something that the great majority of mothers should skip.
Unfortunately, several companies have gone a step further and are now marketing directly to worried parents. These products, often several hundred dollars, promise that by analyzing samples of your breast milk, they will send you details such as your milk’s calorie content, levels of vitamin D, antibodies and other nutrients.
While this might sound like a dream for a mom who wants to know exactly what her baby is getting — especially in a society where we seem so able to track so many things — this kind of testing may actually do more harm than good. First, it’s hard to say exactly how much of some of these substances a breastfed baby should “ideally” be getting — such as certain antibodies — so to claim that a milk analysis can determine this is a bit far-fetched. Secondly, milk composition changes from day to day and even feed to feed, so samples may not tell the entire picture.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, March 2020
- New tests claim to be able to analyze breast milk to determine if it’s “good enough” for your baby.
- However, this is completely unnecessary and scientifically unproven.
- Your body knows exactly the amount of fats, proteins, and calories that your baby needs.